Production & Post Global Viewpoint – December 2020

Innovation Triumph

Broadcast television has been at the forefront of technological development for over eighty years. And as another decade passes, innovation maintains its growth, the markets are awash with new products and services, and television continues to thrive.

I applaud television for two reasons; firstly, it provides an extraordinary platform for the creative arts and imaginative technology to meet and feed from each other. No sooner do we seem to deliver on a massive technological advance, then another production demand comes along pushing us still further, which in turn inspires program makers the world over to create even greater productions, and so the circle continues. And secondly, it’s proved an incredible avenue for technological creativity and innovation.

The broadcast history books are full of examples of engineers who’ve burnt the midnight oil to build boxes that solve highly complex problems that nobody else has figured out. Whether they are interfaces, control units, or completely new processing methods for video, audio, and metadata, determined inventors have risen to the challenge and delivered for our industry.

As an industry we’ve always seemed to fit into a very interesting niche. On the one side we have the big corporates with their massive R&D budgets who deliver the cameras, vision switchers, and sound consoles. But at the other end of the spectrum, we see a small but tenacious group of committed pioneers who work tirelessly to solve incredibly important problems.

We don’t just have the odd entrepreneur who’s built a thriving business from their garage or shed, but an entire industry that has prospered from engineers who’ve deciphered and found the missing pieces to the puzzles.

One of the great advantages of migrating to IP is that it opens up a whole new arena of opportunities, not only for broadcasters, but for any budding innovators who have the passion to progress technology and see solutions that nobody else can see. Even though our data rates see no chance of abating, in my view, the principal reason such innovation continues to be possible is that a lot of the really difficult hardware design and heavy lifting has been accomplished with influences from the IT industry.

Any vendor will tell you that hardware design is risky, difficult and very expensive. Furthermore, broadcaster’s procurement departments are not only looking at the bottom-line costs, but also at a vendor’s supply chain and quality of build. In other words, they’re de-risking themselves. And who would blame them?

COTS infrastructures continue to provide broadcasters with improved scalability and flexibility leaving the door open for innovators, progressive thinkers, and problem solvers to deliver cutting edge software solutions.

That said, just providing an ingenious solution doesn’t guarantee a sale, and the hoops to jump through are still real, but many of these problems are much more attainable. For example, escrow agents help de-risk broadcasters so the source code is available should the vendor suffer an unfortunate economic misfortune.

Broadcasting has always been a great incubator for new technical talent. And with the integration of IP COTS infrastructures, I see this expanding beyond all recognition.